By: Kyle Tooley ~Sports Editor~
The men’s basketball team has opened up the season with a 2-0 start, but only one win left fans with something to cheer about.
The Musketeers topped Lehigh in the season opener 84- 81 and dismantled Buffalo in game two by a score of 86-53.
The Lehigh game was met with much anticipation, as Xavier entered the game ranked as the No. 7 team in the Associated Press (AP) poll, its highest preseason ranking in program history.
Lehigh, a team that constantly represents the Patriot League in the NCAA Tournament, came into the contest as upset-minded as ever.
Led by senior Tim Kempton, a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award hopeful for the best center in the country, Lehigh was having its way with Xavier down low. Kempton dropped 25 points along with seven rebounds as Lehigh shot 50 percent from the floor while forcing 17 Xavier turnovers.
The Musketeers escaped with a victory, thanks in part to some great offensive performances from sophomore guard Edmond Sumner and junior forwards Trevon Bluiett and Sean O’Mara.
All three posted career-high point totals, with Sumner dropping 24, Bluiett going for 25 and O’Mara adding 10.
The defense improved in some regards against Buffalo, as the Bulls were held to a bit under 31 percent shooting on the night.
This total included only five two-point field goals, as the lengthy Buffalo team was doing the majority of its damage from distance.
After lackluster performances in the opener, freshmen Quentin Goodin and Tyrique Jones both stepped up for the Musketeers. Criticized for playing scared by Coach Chris Mack against Lehigh, Goodin attacked the basket and commanded the offense like a veteran. He chipped in 11 points and four assists. Jones showcased his defense and rebounding ability, delivering two devastating blocks while grabbing a team-high 11 rebounds.
The defense on the perimeter showed no signs of improvement in game two, however, as Buffalo followed Lehigh’s 40 percent from distance mark with a 37 percent outing of its own.
The success came as somewhat of a surprise, as Buffalo usually tries to attack the rim more than settling for outside shots. In addition, Xavier strayed away from its famed 1-3-1 zone in the game, which is a scheme that may allow for better looks from distance. Nonetheless, Buffalo was able to convert 10-27 long balls.
As is customary with earlyseason games, the referees were making noise on just about every possession.
59 fouls were called in the 40-minute contest, with 38 of those going in Xavier’s favor.
Senior Tim Stainbrook, a former walk-on, recorded the first points of his college career with a three-pointer late in the game against the Bulls.
Mack has said that Stainbrook is in line for meaningful minutes if Xavier’s already thin bench gets even thinner.
The Musketeers return to action on Nov. 17 as they take on the Missouri Tigers in Orlando in the first game of the Tire Pros Invitational.